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House Republicans press Biden Education secretary on reopening outreach

House Republicans press Biden Education secretary on reopening outreach
© AP/Pool

Two Republican lawmakers on Monday wrote to Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaLocal leaders build pressure on Biden to cancel student loans COVID relief vital to successful reopening of schools Judge ruling upholds Connecticut school mask mandate MORE pressing him for answers on how the department formulated its guidance for schools to resume in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic and whether it solicited input from teachers unions.

Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxHouse GOP fights back against mask, metal detector fines Sixth House member issued ,000 security screening fine House Ethics panel to drop K metal detector fines against Clyburn, Rogers MORE (R-N.C.), the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Burgess Owens (Utah), the top Republican on the House Education Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, wrote to Cardona following a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) solicited input from a teachers union when developing its school reopening guidance.

"If the [American Federation of Teachers] has this much influence with the CDC, it raises significant concerns about the influence the organization wielded over the Department of Education in the development of its guidance and handbook," the lawmakers wrote.

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The lawmakers cited testimony from parents who spoke about the difficulties their children have had as a result of school closures. One parent testified that their child, who has autism, had an especially difficult time because of social isolation, and his wife was forced to quit her job to homeschool their daughter, who was also in special education.

"Knowing this, it is entirely inexcusable for teachers unions to sway official guidance," the lawmakers wrote.

Foxx and Owens asked Cardona whether the Department of Education interacted with the American Federation of Teachers or National Education Association or other union officials about school reopening guidance; whether the department offered those unions the opportunity to provide feedback on draft guidance; and what, if any, additional groups were contacted about the recommendations.

The letter is the latest example of Republican lawmakers highlighting the Biden administration's handling of school closures and suggesting there may have been improper political influence.

The New York Post reported earlier this month on communications that showed CDC officials were in touch with leaders from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teachers union in the country.

The White House later downplayed criticism from conservatives about the outreach from the CDC to the AFT, arguing it makes practical sense for the health agency to get feedback from stakeholders when developing guidance and recommendations.

"It’s actually longstanding best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations, groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency," press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden to host Germany's Merkel at the White House in July Psaki 'likely will stay longer' than year as White House press secretary MORE said at a briefing. "It doesn't mean they are taking everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want."